This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
The winner of a Player of the Season award is obviously a strong indicator as to who the big-hitters in a squad are.
If West Ham lost their 2018/19 Hammer of the Year in Lukasz Fabianski, you would expect them to replace him – we have already seen just how dependent the Irons are on the former Arsenal man since the Pole suffered a recent injury, having not won for six games.
In Everton’s case, if they lost their 2018/19 Player of the Season in Lucas Digne, surely they would go out and replace him – the Frenchman is arguably one of the best left-backs in the Premier League.
So, when Crystal Palace lost their Player of the Season for 2018/19 in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, they replaced him right?
An ambitious and unrealistic bid for Chelsea’s Reece James was rejected, and the Eagles decided to enter the campaign with Joel Ward as their one and only right-back.
That wasn’t ideal, but it also wasn’t the end of the world. The former Portsmouth man held his own and has helped Palace amass 15 points after 12 games, but an incident in the last outing against Chelsea has made the south Londoners’ summer decision seem amateurish.
Having just punched the Stamford Bridge turf with frustration, Ward had to leave the field after picking up what Roy Hodgson detailed as a groin strain, leaving Palace in a turbulent situation.
Martin Kelly now looks likely to be Ward’s replacement, and while you might argue that it’ll be fine seeing as the England international used to play at right-back for Liverpool and Palace, he is not a natural fit.
Kelly looks uncomfortable in the role. Just by watching him, you’ll see that his distinct lack of pace and adventure, coupled with his non-existent dribbling skills, make the position difficult for him.
That is perhaps why Sam Allardyce decided to make Kelly a centre-back upon his appointment as Alan Pardew’s replacement.
To further explain how amateurish Palace’s summer transfer decision was, Ward can also play at left-back as he did 12 times under Tony Pulis, a position of the pitch that only Patrick van Aanholt is a natural candidate for at the club.
If the Dutchman were to get injured, while Ward was also out, then it would leave the Eagles in a real mess.
This has already happened once this season, albeit briefly, and Hodgson was forced to use academy centre-back Sam Woods at right-back and centre-midfielder Jairo Riedewald at left-back – the 72-year-old later said that he felt sorry for the pair.
Hodgson’s apology came after the duo were used as makeshifts against Colchester, a game that Palace eventually lost.
After Ward’s injury, Palace will presumably be praying that they can just make it to the January window without too much drama.